Carlo Allegri / REUTERS
Rupert Murdoch has vowed to hit back at what he feels is a persecution of his tabloid titles over phone hacking and bribery of public officials, criticising the police treatment of former top lieutenant Rebekah Brooks.
In a secret recording made during a meeting with Sun staff in March, the 82-year-old media mogul also indicated that his successor will be eldest son, Lachlan, or Robert Thomson, the chief executive of News Corporation.
In the recording, a full transcript of which has been published by investigative website Exaro, Murdoch hits out at the excessive amount of police firepower used to arrest Brooks, the former chief of his UK publishing empire.
“The people who came in and turned over Rebekah on a Monday morning, and her mother-in-law, there [were] about 15 or 16, most of them, a dozen or so, came from Manchester, a murder squad or something. And there were three local cops. It’s ridiculous, quite openly,” he said.
Murdoch also said that the police falsely accused the publisher blocking their investigation when they came to search the company’s headquarters in Wapping.
“[Police] were in Rebekah’s office for two days, thereabouts, when there were three executives in there with them,” he said. “And [the police] say how they came in and got all this stuff against great resistance. But there was nothing there. They [the executives] were just watching. And [the police] didn’t get anything worthwhile anyway, but that’s another matter.”
Murdoch was scathing in his assessment of the police, labelling them “totally incompetent” and a “disgrace”, saying that he will hit back at what he believes is a persecution of his tabloid titles.
Geoff Webster, the Sun’s deputy editor, referring to the perceived police vendetta, said it would be “nice to hit back when we can”.
“We will, we will,” says Murdoch.
Murdoch’s hardline stance behind closed doors is at serious odds with a contrite public apology he made last year at the Leveson inquiry into press standards and ethics.
In April last year he said that he had been “misinformed and shielded” from what was going on at News of the World, that he should have closed the tabloid years before he did in summer 2011, and that the scandal was a “serious blot” on his reputation.
Murdoch implies that he will continue to employ and support journalists who are convicted of bribing public officials.
He was asked by Graham Dudman, the Sun’s former managing editor, what assurances he can give staff about their “individual future” at the company if they are convicted of offences.
“Well, of course, I expected that question,” he said. “I’ve been told that I must not give guarantees, but I can give you something. Emotional support is not enough, I’ve got to do more. What you’re asking is what happens if some of you are proven guilty? What afterwards? I’m not allowed to promise you – I will promise you continued health support – but your jobs – I’ve got to be careful what comes out – but frankly, I won’t say it, but just trust me. OK?”
Asked by a journalist what would happen once Murdoch was no longer around to lend his support, the mogul’s response appeared to cut his youngest son, James, out of the battle for succession at News Corp.
“The decision would be – well, it will either be with my son, Lachlan, or with Robert Thomson,” he said. “And you don’t have any worries about either of them.”
Murdoch also appeared to confirm that he has been aware for a long time of the practice of bribing officials that existed in Fleet Street.
“We’re talking about payments for news tips from cops: that’s been going on a hundred years, absolutely,” said Murdoch.
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